Worktops have a transformative effect on the look, feel and function of your kitchen, and with such a strong influence on the overall appearance, it can be hard to decide which one is right for you. In this short article. we‘ll look at some of the key features to consider when deciding what kind of worktop best suits your needs.
Types of worktop finishes
A good place to start is to ask yourself how you imagine your worktop to look, different materials can have their own unique aesthetic, so you might find your dream look can only be achieved by one specific kind of surface.
Solid Colour Worktops
Solid colour worktops have pure, clean finishes which are great for modern, minimalist designs. Solid block colours have little variance and are great for creating simple and consistent design elements.
These types of finishes can only be achieved by Solid Surface worktops, such as Corian, Hi-Macs, Hanex and Avonite. This type of worktop is warm to the touch, and is often comprised of a combination of resins and dyes. Easily repaired, but less durable than natural stone worktops, ‘’Solid Surface” tops are also the best option if you’re looking to minimise any visual joins.
It should be also be noted that when choosing a solid colour worktop, that those with high concentrations of dyes may also be more susceptible to showing scratches. While this is less of an issue for lighter colours, some manufacturers recommend not to use certain products in high traffic areas.
Sand effect or Small Chipped Worktops
A popular style for many worktops is to opt for a surface with a fine-grain chipped appearance. Having smaller elements means that the overall appearance of the worktop is consistent, while still allowing complex patterns and colours to shine through.
Finishes in this style can vary wildly. Some styles have elements which are highly similar on the colour spectrum, which gives off a textured look, while others can have much more drastic shifts from blacks, to whites, to coloured inclusions.
Wooden worktops are often available in a range of colours, based on the trees from which they were sourced. This finish can stretch from pale Beech, to the ebony shades of premium woods such as Wenge.
When choosing a wood worktop for all or part of your design, you may wish to look at different options for the final cut. Traditionally, wooden worktops will have a small ‘plank’ appearance. Other options include the ‘full stave’ which has much longer, broader sections, and ‘butchers block’ which uses only square end pieces, for a chequerboard effect.
The classic look of traditional Quartz worktops shows off the natural Quartzite crystals in a chunky format, bound by resins and dyes. Having chunky inclusions creates designs which are detailed and complex. While this trend might have started with Quartz, it has since been emulated by Solid Surface worktops, often with unique characteristics.
The inclusion of large chips has created a whole new playing field for exciting new surfaces, some of which may include mirrored elements, pearlescent fragments and translucent shards. Even some granite finishes can have surprising amounts of reflectivity in the minerals trapped within.
Veining is the trademark characteristic of Marble worktops, and as such is often called Marbling. This descriptor generally refers to a worktop with sweeping design elements, such as bright or dark stripes, swirling of textures, or cloudy texturisation.
Veined surfaces can be found in most product portfolios, but is typically attributed to Granites, where each design is completely unique. The danger of choosing a veined surface is because these patterns are often random in nature, the results are likely to vary from your original intentions. This also makes matching splashbacks, upstands, end-panels and jointing difficult, so it should generally be expected that these joins will be visible.
Creating a Plan
If you’re still trying to make up your mind about what style of worktop to go for, it’s always a good idea to think about the space you have and any limitations or features you might need to consider.
Are you just looking to change your worktops, if so, what colours or styles will work with your existing tiling, cabinets and flooring? Does your kitchen already feel ‘busy’? If so, it might be worth thinking about a more understated fine-grain or solid block colour.
Not all worktops are suitable for all environments in the long term. If your kitchen gets a lot of natural light for example, it might be worth considering that not all solid surfaces and Quartz worktops are UV stable. This means that they may discolour after a while. Some worktops are also susceptible to some degree of thermal expansion, which makes them unsuitable for spaces regularly exceeding 30 degrees.
Similarly, if you’re thinking about setting up an outdoor kitchen area. Be sure to consider whether your chosen worktop is suitably weatherproof. Worktops kept outdoors may need additional treatment to effectively seal them, and highly porous surfaces may not be suitable for freezing temperatures.
Shape & Style
You may want to also consider the shape of your worktop when deciding upon what style to go for. Particularly for veined products, or Granite finishes such as “Marinace” with huge elements, you may wish to limit the number of joints. In the same way, if you have a narrow kitchen design with two opposing counters, you might want to opt for a more sweeping veined format.
You are not just limited to a single design style, and often more is at stake than simply what you will use to prepare food. Many modern designs will continue the worktop design elements using an end-panel or splashbacks. You might even want to change this up with contrasting splashbacks, or have a wooden butchers block extending from a Granite breakfast bar. In the end, it’s about creating a design which feels right to you.
Functions & features of different worktops
Different materials have different traits under certain circumstance, while by definition, all are suitable for general kitchen use, you may find that some features simply meet your needs enough to influence your decision.
Heat resistance in worktops
If heat resistance is important to you, you will likely be looking at natural stone worktops. Many solid surface worktops, particularly those with acrylic content, can be badly damaged by using hot pans. Granite is formed under intense heat and pressure, which makes it the most resistant. Quartz is the next best choice, as it is comprised from natural quartz stone, although the resins and dyes included may show some wear under intense heats.
Generally, for good worktop care, we would recommend against relying on your surface for hot pans, instead you should rely primarily on your hob for this function. If you often find yourself using and switching between many pans, you might want to consider pan rests, heat-proof metal bars which can be embedded into your worktop to offer protection.
Worktop Hygiene and Care
Generally, if a material is non-porous it is naturally hygienic, this is because pores are essentially micro-cavities in which bacteria can become trapped and eventually breed. This also has an effect on how easy to maintain your worktop is, as more porous surfaces are also more susceptible to staining.
Different surfaces will require different methods to maintain and clean. Solid surfaces while incredibly hygienic and naturally stain resistant can be scratched by knives and coarse scouring pads. If not properly cared for, a scratched surface could become increasingly difficult to clean even the most basic spills in future.
Granite worktops are highly scratch resistant, and will even dull knives if used directly, but do have a degree of porosity. Oils in particular can cause an issue, as these may over time cause discolouration beyond the surface layer which is difficult to restore.
Wood worktops, while the material itself can be stained, the coating applied in manufacture creates a smooth resistant layer which protects the wood itself. This oil should be reapplied regularly to ensure thorough protection. In a similar way, using ‘Stone Guard’ products on Granite can also build up a waxy patina, which can prevent liquids from permeating the surface.
Deciding on your worktop
In the end, the worktop you choose will be yours for years to come, so you should be happy with your choice before taking the next step. We recommend taking care not to rush your decision, so that you can be fully confident on your day of installation, and appreciate the excitement of achieving your dream kitchen.
Ten steps to having your new worktop
Find styles which suit your taste and budget
Decide on where cutouts will be, and if sinks are to be included
Choose finishing details, such as edging & drainer grooves
Submit your designs and get a quote
Speak with our team directly about any concerns you might have
Request a sample or more imagery to make sure the top meets your expectations
Finalise quote & schedule day of fitting
Make arrangements to allow successful installation
Feedback & aftercare
We hope this guide has given you a good starting point to deciding on your new kitchen worktops. If you’d like to have a chat about your ideas, please feel free to call our service team directly!